The Second Oxford International Tyndale Conference

Some ninety of us gathered and were warmly welcomed and registered by that most efficient Administrator, Mrs. Priscilla Frost, and her team, at Hertford College, Oxford on the afternoon of Sunday, September 1. As we got to know each other we found ourselves making friends with delegates from almost every corner of the globe. The atmosphere of the Conference was wonderful from the opening Service in Hertford College Chapel and the stirring address by Rev. Michael Chantry, the College Chaplain, to the final farewell and the departure of so many on the coach to Le Tunnel and Leuven.

It was particularly gratifying to have such a number of distinguished friends from the United States of America, from Canada, from New Zealand, from Tokyo and more. It is impossible to mention everybody who was present and contributed so much to the family atmosphere of the Tyndale Society gathered in Hertford College and it seems invidious to name but a few. I must, however, say what an honour and pleasure it was to have with us Dr. Guido Latré of the Catholic University of Leuven who was to be host to those who were fortunate enough to be able to go on to the second phase of the Conference in Belgium. He gave us a fascinating picture of Tyndale in Antwerp in his lecture on Tuesday morning. And how good to have Professor Carsten Thiede from Germany with us again. His lecture on Tyndale the European Scholar was a revelation. It was also an honour to us all to have Christopher Hill among us and there was much to be learnt from his lecture on Tyndale and Nonconformity,

The 'kick-off' to the four days before us was given, after the welcome address by Professor David Daniell, by an extraordinary demonstration of how to make a concordance with an up-date on how far she has progressed, by Dr. Deborah Pollard of the Department of Engineering, the Queen Mary & Westfield College, London, a good demonstration of the cross-fertilisation of disciplines. It was good, also, to have Dr. Tony Tyndale over from Canada, who has done such fascinating research into the family, relations and friends of his illustrious ancestor. I would also like to mention Ms. Kim Molinari from The Scriptorium, (Centre for Christian Antiquities, Michigan) for the paper she read on The Bible in Print in England before Tyndale, and Ms. Kaoru Yamazaki for her paper on Ecclesiology, Tyndale and More.

I personally was much impressed and, I would say, shaken by Chris Daniell's paper on The Reformers' Deaths. At the end of his talk there was a stunned and horrified silence. The details that Chris had researched of the methods of torture applied by both sides in so many of these case-histories of persecution led us all to reflect on what kind of creatures we are, descended from these forbears and even continuing similar atrocities on larger or smaller scale in so many parts of the world today. The potential for good and for evil of the human race (created by God for what purpose?) was staring us in the face at the end of this Second Oxford International Tyndale Conference. [ Chris's paper is printed in this Journal on page 11 - Ed.]

I conclude on a lighter, more positive note with what was, for me, the apogee of the whole: Professor David Daniell's lecture Without Tyndale, no Shakespeare. When I told my friends of the Blackheath Branch of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Society the title of this lecture I was met with disbelief and outrage. As a Shakespeare devotee myself, I came eagerly expecting a catalogue of words and phrases which William may have learned from Tyndale's translations. What we got was so much more: the story of the great revolution in Education at the turn of the 16th-17th century which made Shakespeare possible. I do not recall the exact figure (and I hope we may have Professor Daniell's lecture in print at some time) of how many homes in which a copy of Tyndale's New Testament might be found by about 1603; but the point is that we now have William Shakespeare, no longer the untutored and ignorant genius who wrote plays by some extra-ordinary inspiration, but the educated scholar and conscious craftsman who knew what he was doing and did it supremely well.

And finally a word about the venue, our wonderful hosts, Hertford College. First I went to look at the William Tyndale Window, in the Chapel.. a true work of art, so tastefully installed and lit. Then I found my way up to the Baring Room, the main location for all the lectures, up, dare I say it, 48 steps. I sat shamelessly on the 25th or 26th step, recovering my breath whilst younger and fitter men and women raced past me to be in time for this or the other lecture or short paper. When I got there the atmosphere and the acoustics were great and it was worth the climb. I thought of it as a sort of Ascent of Man, for the good of my soul.

Ian Sciortino

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